Kevin Owens on WWE Draft, Vince McMahon, Dream Feuds and More in B/R Exclusive
He's been targeted by Aleister Black since after SummerSlam for reasons unbeknown to him. He's also made an enemy out of "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt in recent weeks for questioning Alexa Bliss' recent antics. That's in addition to hosting his hit talk show, The KO Show, on an almost weekly basis.
The former Universal champion's upcoming clash with The Fiend on Friday Night SmackDown will coincide with Night 1 of the 2020 WWE Draft. Although he won't be eligible to be drafted until Monday night on Raw, he's hoping the annual shakeup will bring him back to the blue brand full-time.
Since signing with WWE in the summer of 2014, Owens has had incredible success in the company on all three of its biggest brands. Wherever the draft takes him, he will continue to carve out an outstanding legacy for himself and take the fight to everyone on the roster like he always has.
Ahead of his encounter with The Fiend on SmackDown, Owens took the time to talk with Bleacher Report about everything draft-related, his current relationship with the boss Vince McMahon, who he wants to work with the most, his thoughts on potentially touring again and welcoming fans back into the buildings, and more.
Click through to catch the highlights and listen to the full interview at the end.
Feuding with Bray Wyatt and Aleister Black
Kevin Owens had no intention of calling out Bray Wyatt last week when he took advantage of the Brand-to-Brand Invitational and returned to SmackDown to welcome Alexa Bliss on to The KO Show. The segment ended with him enduring the wrath of The Fiend after questioning Bliss' odd antics as of late.
The two will now face off on SmackDown in what will be their first televised one-on-one match ever. Owens noted that he went up against Wyatt twice on live events in 2018 but that this will be an entirely different challenge considering that was before Wyatt's transformation into The Fiend.
"It's always cool to get in the ring with someone different, but I can't say wrestling The Fiend was on my list of things I was looking forward to, to be honest, because you know how everyone else has ended up against The Fiend," he said. "Hopefully I have better luck tonight, but it wasn't at the top of my list of priorities necessarily."
Owens acknowledged that the two have very similar styles and that it was almost like wrestling a mirror image of himself in a way. Although Owens and Aleister Black are almost polar opposites as far as their in-ring arsenals are concerned, their matches have still been enjoyable any time they've waged war.
Black initially attacked Owens the night after SummerSlam on Raw, essentially saying that he blamed Owens for the eye injury he suffered at the hands of Seth Rollins because Owens wasn't there to help him. Despite that, The Prizefighter feels Black could have explained his actions better, which in turn would have made their storyline stronger.
"I feel like Aleister could have explained his reasoning a little bit better and that would've helped the story and help me understand why all of it's happening," he said. "It is what it is right now. We're kind of past the point of explaining [to] each other. He attacked me, I fought him back. I'm sure it's building to one big match where we can settle it once and for all, but I don't really know where any of it is going at this point."
Favorite Draft Moment and Constantly Being Picked Late
Kevin Owens has had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the WWE Draft since it was brought back in 2016 for the second incarnation of the Brand Extension.
His favorite draft-related moment has nothing to do with himself, but rather his foe-turned-friend Finn Balor. The inaugural Universal champion was among the first picked by Raw in the 2016 draft, which was especially significant because of how Balor was an NXT-exclusive talent up until that point.
"I was really pumped to know that my friend was getting called up and was going to be on the same show as me," Owens said. "The reaction of the crowd in the arena when they announced his name was really special, because at that point, Finn had only been an NXT talent. NXT was growing constantly at that point and still is, but we were never sure how many fans in the WWE Universe paid attention to NXT, and once you heard the reaction to his name, it was pretty clear everyone was aware of who he was and everybody was really excited."
On the whole, however, Owens is no fan of draft day, specifically when it comes to being picked later than he'd like more often than not. He was picked in Round 4 in 2016 and then in Round 3 in 2019. A tweet he put out following the 2019 draft indicated he was far from thrilled with his placement.
He added that it doesn't help not knowing where he's headed until it's announced on TV or online.
"I'm sure this year will be no different, [but] I feel frustrated [with] how far into the draft I get picked," he said. "Last year was a new low. I was picked so late. I was very angry, but you know, I'm probably one of many who feel that way when they're drafted. The drafts are actually always kind of stressful because you don't know where you're going until they announce it on TV or the supplemental draft that they do online after, so you don't know who you're going to be with.
"Now, it's kind of different because we're not necessarily traveling currently and might not be for a while," he continued, "but when we're traveling on the road, sometimes that means you don't know if your road partner will be on the same show as you. You don't know if your friends are going to be on the same brand anymore. While that might seem like a small inconvenience, when you're on the road as much as we are or were at that point, the people that are around you in a lot of ways keep you sane. It's a big deal, you know? You never know anything going into the draft, so it's always a pretty stressful day to be honest."
Preference Between Raw and SmackDown and Almost Returning to NXT
Some Superstars spend an entire career on one WWE brand or the other and develop a fondness for that show. Because he's bounced around so frequently dating back to his NXT days, Kevin Owens couldn't care less where he's slotted, as long as it provides him with a fresh start and the opportunities he's looking for.
He has switched shows every year since the initial draft in 2016, and he expects this year to be no exception to the trend.
"I can only assume from the past that I'm going to switch," he said. "It almost gives me a new playground every year and a new set of people to work with. It kind of gives me a reset or a chance to rest, anyway. So far, I don't know if that's how it works, but every time we get to a draft, it feels like I'm due for a reset every time as a Superstar, as a character, as a whatever. It still feels that way to me this year. I hope I do go to SmackDown so I can hopefully start fresh on that side of things."
Owens said that come draft day every year, he is always itching for a change in scenery. He never ceases to start off strong on whatever show he's on before becoming a background player through no fault of his own. That's been the case recently with him, which is why he's hoping a shift to SmackDown is in the cards.
"I think it's that chance to hopefully get that opportunity to get a fresh start," he said. "I don't know what it is about me. I feel like I give it my all, I deliver every time I'm on the air, but for some reason, I feel like I always end up in a situation where I could always use a fresh start after a little while. I always try my best to do that, so it always helps to get a new platform. Here I am again one year later, and last year, I was so desperate to move to Raw and I got moved to Raw. Now, I'm pretty desperate to move to SmackDown because, for some reason, I don't feel like things are working out for me on Raw. Maybe it'll be better on SmackDown. But at this time last year, I didn't think things were working out for me on SmackDown and thought Raw was maybe the place."
NXT won't officially be a part of the 2020 WWE Draft, but it's always possible members of the main roster move there on their own eventually. That was what happened with Finn Balor last year and Ember Moon this past Sunday at TakeOver 31, and even Owens at one point was vocal about returning to his old stomping grounds.
Owens revealed that plans were in place for him to go back to the black-and-gold brand a year ago, likely around the time he made the one-off appearance at TakeOver: WarGames III, but those plans fell through, and now he's no longer interested.
"Last year at some point, I was going back to NXT," he said. "It was all in motion and it was going to happen, and then it didn't. To say that's a thought that crossed my mind would be an understatement, but I would tell you right now that that's not the case anymore. That's just not where I'm at anymore. Now, I want to be on Raw or be on SmackDown and just fight like hell to create some memorable moments for everybody. That's all I want at this point."
What's Missing from the Current Kevin Owens Character?
It can be argued that, along with Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens has had one of the best character arcs in all of WWE since his debut.
He arrived as a hero in NXT but quickly turned his back on the fans by betraying his best friend Sami Zayn. His explanation was that he did what he had to do in order to provide for his family, even if it meant cutting ties with confidants such as Zayn, Chris Jericho and The New Day along the way.
Owens continued to commit heinous acts as a heel up until last year when he made a full-fledged face turn while feuding with Shane McMahon. He's made it clear recently that he wants to be better and is a changed man, but even Owens agrees that he could have benefited from cutting that one defining promo that established his new motives.
"I don't think I ever got a real chance to explain myself as to why I want to do things differently," he said. "I don't think I was given the chance to do that for one reason or another. TV time is a very precious thing, and when you get it, 99 percent of the time you have to talk about the story you're in because you have to make the most out of that TV time. I would have loved to get a few minutes at some point just to explain why it was important to me to move past all the backstabbing and all the bad things I did to my friends throughout my career, but I was never given that chance. I think that's been missing and would've helped me connect with the audience even more."
The promo he wanted to cut would have assured the audience that he wasn't going to turn on their favorites anymore. He mentioned that was why he came up with the "Just Keep Fighting" shirt, which is supposed to encourage fans to never give up even when times get tough.
"As cheesy as it may seem," he said, "if things don't work out your way, you just have to power through and keep fighting."
Potentially Touring Again and How He Feels About It
Even in the midst of a pandemic, WWE has continued to tape television, though the process hasn't been without issues. The testing process has become stricter, and the company has gone to great lengths lately to protect the talent.
A lot of the changes to the way things have been run in that respect behind the scenes this year can be attributed to Kevin Owens.
The former NXT and Universal champion has been vocal about the importance of masks and why they should be worn at all times backstage. It was reported by Pat Laprade on the Les anti-pods de la lutte podcast over the summer (h/t Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc.) that Owens confronted Vince McMahon about precautions the company should be taking that would allow him and everyone else to comfortably perform inside the Performance Center or the ThunderDome.
WWE is bound to start touring again at some point, or at the least allowing more fans into the buildings for its shows. There's no official word on when that might be, but when that day does come, Owens trusts that the company wouldn't do it if they didn't think it was as safe as possible.
"I think I would be comfortable [touring in front of fans again] because I've been very vocal and very honest with WWE management as far as the virus goes and the measures we're taking to try and keep it safe and stuff like that," he said. "When I wasn't comfortable with the way things were, I voiced my concerns and they took it seriously and immediately tried to remedy the situation to make sure everyone felt comfortable, including myself. I feel good about how they try to handle everything."
Owens was absent from a few episodes of Raw in June after Fightful Select (h/t Middleton) reported he pulled out of the tapings because of COVID-19-related concerns. He shared a story soon after about a loss in the family that was the result of the pandemic, urging everyone to wear a mask and to take the virus seriously.
Enough has changed in WWE since then that he feels comfortable partaking in the tapings and that WWE will only take the show back on the road when it's appropriate to do so.
"If I didn't feel we were safe, I wouldn't be on these shows. You just wouldn't see me," Owens said. "If the choice is made to start traveling and start allowing fans in, I'm going to assess the situation and talk to anybody I need to talk to if I don't feel comfortable, but right now, I see the way they handle things in the ThunderDome and I'm happy to go there every Raw, SmackDown, whatever it is and do my work. I would think they would take the topic of going back on the road or allowing fans back in just as seriously, and if they do, then I'll be there to perform."
His Relationship with Vince McMahon and with Twitter
The Kevin Owens character has had a checkered past with Vince McMahon on screen, including viciously attacking him on a 2017 episode of SmackDown, but his relationship with the boss has never been stronger behind the scenes than it is right now.
"I speak to him whenever I need to. There have been times where I didn't feel as comfortable going to talk to him because my career has been a bit of a roller coaster in WWE."
As previously noted in regards to his COVID-19 concerns, Owens feels comfortable talking to Vince about things of importance to him. Owens' episode of WWE 365 showed Vince criticizing his WrestleMania match with Chris Jericho, but he confirms there was more to that conversation than what made the show and that they're on great terms today.
"There have been times where I almost didn't want to go back in his office to talk to him until I felt like I delivered what he wanted," he said. "Then I could look him in the eye and say, 'All right, what's next?' As far as the personal stuff goes, whether it's the handling of the virus or anything else like that, his door's always open. I'd say we've discussed life matters more than anything wrestling-related over the past few months. I don't know if he has that kind of relationship with everybody, but I'm pretty comfortable telling him anything I need to tell him and he's always very receptive. He won't always agree, but that's the nature of humans and conversations, so I'd say we have a good relationship."
His relationship with Twitter, unfortunately, isn't nearly as stellar. The man known for his hilarious and inspiring tweets largely despises the platform because of how Twitter often doesn't take action on the bullying that transpires there.
"I don't like [Twitter]," he said. "I'm going to be brutally honest, I actually think Twitter doesn't do a very good job of making sure their platform isn't used for bullying and just bad things. I've thought about deleting my account many times."
Owens added that the only reason he keeps his account active is for the positive interactions he has with fans and sharing stories, such as this one about when he lost his cat recently before finding him.
"I don't think it's a good place," he said. "The only reason I still have it is because once in a while I like posting things that give my fans something to feel positive about."
His off-the-Cuff Approach to Backstage Interviews
If there's one thing Kevin Owens is most known for outside of his excellent matches and mic skills, it's his backstage interactions with interviewers in WWE.
Since debuting on the main roster in May 2015, Owens has brought the best out of everyone he's interacted with behind the scenes, specifically in interviews conducted for WWE.com and the company's YouTube channel. In fact, that's where he feels he's done some of his best work from an entertainment standpoint.
From JoJo to Renee Young to Mike Rome to now Sarah Schreiber, no interviewer in WWE is safe from his witty banter and wacky antics.
"I feel like some of my finest work has been on WWE.com, and there's no limitations because nobody knows what I'm going to say," Owens said. "Whenever the digital grabs me and says, 'Hey, we'd like to grab you for a little interview,' I'm more than happy to do it because I know it's time to just go nuts. Sometimes I have so little of an idea of what I'm going to say myself before it starts that sometimes they'll say 30 seconds to a minute and end up with a four-minute video.
"There was stuff I used to do when JoJo was around for backstage interviews that I look back fondly on, and the same thing with Sarah," he continued. "I did one once with Mike Rome in a car. All of things are probably my favorite. As far as pure entertainment goes, that's the way to go."
Dream Feuds and His Favorite Feud
Although Kevin Owens finds himself in the middle of heated rivalries with "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt and Aleister Black, his ultimate goal is to eventually work with Roman Reigns again.
The two previously feuded over the Universal Championship in late 2016 into early 2017. Their No Holds Barred bout at the 2017 Royal Rumble event was especially exceptional, but Owens believes their chemistry would be even stronger now with the roles reversed.
"It's easy to say because it's the top star and he's the champion, so who wouldn't want to work with him?" he said. "But Roman's new identity or whatever you want to call it. I always thought me versus Roman in the proper setting could be really interesting, and the proper setting is, more than ever, now that he's embraced his awesome Tribal Chief persona. I think me being pretty much the complete opposite of him would be an interesting clash."
Owens also added Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton to the list of dream feuds he hopes to have at some point, regardless of whether they're on Raw or SmackDown.
"Drew McIntyre and I had two matches on TV and that's it, just two matches," he said. "We never worked with each other on live events, but both of those matches were bangers, and I'd love to do it again on a bigger stage. I never had the chance to work an actual storyline with Randy Orton. He's one of my favorites to work with, so that'd be great, too. There's plenty of things I'd love to do, but who knows how things will shake up."
As far as his favorite feuds go, he and Sami Zayn always made magic whenever they stepped in the ring together on NXT, Raw, SmackDown or even on pay-per-view. His debut feud with John Cena, he says, was outstanding as well.
"Anything I got to do with Sami [was my favorite]," he said. "We bring out the best in each other. Obviously starting out with John Cena and having that series of matches, that's the thing about it. It's kind of hard to top that kind of stuff starting out that way, so it's been a struggle to climb that mountain back because I kind of started there. That's something I really look fondly back on for sure."
Catch Kevin Owens in action against "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt on Night 1 of the 2020 WWE Draft on SmackDown this Friday at 8/7c, only on Fox.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.